Gossiping Is Annoying and Immature

English: Gossiping Taken from the churchyard. ...

English: Gossiping Taken from the churchyard. This group of riders chatted for a good ten minutes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whenever we find out that something has gone wrong in someone’s life or someone made a big mistake, we all would like to know all the details about this.  Also, some of us strive to find out everything we can about coworkers, family members, or friends by becoming extremely observant, or nosy, should I say.  I like to refer to these people as “fault sniffers”, commonly coined as gossipers.

My Foster Mother Was a Gossiper

I was raised in a foster home of 8 children.  Our mother was very critical about every one of us and our flaws.  It was like, if one of us developed a problem, even at 4 years of age, we would more likely have that problem for the rest of our lives.  If there was something we were not so good at or if we made some kind of silly mistake, she would blab about it to the rest of the family and to even her relatives.  Even if you were just a young kid, say under 10 years old, every little stupid thing you’ve done was treated as if it were a traffic violation or crime that went down on your record.  Mom was evil, critical, and would deliberately do things to cause friction and humiliation within the family.

Even as we reached adulthood, our mother would never stop gossiping.  She felt that since she raised us, she indefinitely owned us.  After we had all left home, she would come and visit us frequently.  Whenever she was over, she would ask us lots of questions and poke around through every room in our homes just to see what she could find.

Surely enough, each one of us has made some kind of decision that she disagreed with.  For me, I had purchased my first home in 1988 and decided to have a young couple move in with me as tenants.  Because they were not so wealthy I allowed them to live there for $150 per month, especially since they agreed to do most of the work around the house.  Mother felt that I was being taken advantage of and told me I should charge them $300 per month, which was more than they could afford.   She told me how I should handle all my affairs including groceries and utilities.  I stood firm on doing what I thought was right.  So what did she do?  She circulated this news among the entire family.

She was the ultimate news source.  I would hear all kinds of interesting news from her as she criticized decisions others had made.  For example, if someone purchased a large ticket item she thought was lucrative (like a TV, etc), she would tell everyone about it.  One of my sisters sold every piece of furniture they had so her husband could fly down to Texas.  She had to tell everybody about that.

Finally, with everyone my mother had met including our spouses and friends, she had to find out as much about them as possible.  As for my biological sister’s boyfriend, she would ask me numerous questions about him, where he was from, his lifestyle, etc.  It’s like she had to know everything about everyone who crossed her path.  She was hoping to discover something extremely unusual or wrong with them.  I saw this as a sign of insecurity or inadequacy on her part. By finding fault in others, this may have made her feel better about herself.

Why People Gossip

Why do people gossip?  It surely doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to answer this question.  Not only must we satisfy our yearning to find about others’ mishaps, but to also justify for our inner feelings of inadequacy.  The more we can find out about our everyday atmosphere and the people in it, the greater the sense of power we feel we have.  Once we gather a great wealth of information, we can’t wait to share it with everyone in our social circles.

Through gossiping, some people acquire a false sense of self-esteem.  By finding out as much as they can about what others are doing and what’s happening in their neighborhoods, communities, and workplaces, some feel they have an edge on everyone else.  Once they pass on the pertinent info they discovered, they get a great feeling inside as they believe they won the approval of others.  To them, it is an assurance they’ll strengthen their casual relationships and be recognized as a knowledgeable person.

Our Natural Curiosities

We like to find out as much as we can about our neighbors.  So we do things like listen for noises going on outside our homes, observe how people keep up their yards, gaze in the windows of homes after dark, or scope out other peoples’ possessions as cars, boats, etc.  Once we gather some info, we chat about it with others to see how they feel and hopefully, find out even more.

Like we observe our neighbors, we love to find out what goes on in our community.  It all begins with watching other drivers on the road.  Some of us love to gaze in the windows of moving vehicles to see what other drivers are doing (like talking on a cell phone) or who is driving.  If we see a motorist whom was pulled over by the police, we would like to know the details of what exactly happened.  Traffic accidents raise our level of curiosity even more.  We have the tendency to slow down and inspect the scene to see what vehicles were involved and what damage has been done.  Oh how we wish we could have seen the accident when it happened.

Not only do we observe drivers, but we look for enviromental changes too.  Construction sparks our curiosity as well.  For example, if we see a building going up, we’d like to know what it will be.  As for road construction, we’d like to know why they’re tearing up the road.

No matter where we are or who we’re with, we have a strong desire to find out unusual things about somebody.  Now, I mean some extremely weird things!  The more unusual these things are, the greater it sparks our curiosity.  It may begin with witnessing a street fight, seeing someone knock over a shelf of things in a grocery store, or sighting someone who just got pulled over the by police.

This natural curiosity dates back to our grade school days.  If someone has an usual mental of physical disability, we would like to know as much about it as we can.  If one or more of our peers failed miserably in school or even flunked a grade, this sparks a great amount of curiosity as well.

It continues on throughout high school and into our working years.  Most everyone has a natural curiosity towards their coworkers, the amount they earn, and their lifestyles.  Most of all, workers poke their noses towards their managers and everyone else above them.  They’re curious to know as much about the upper management levels of their employer and how their company is doing.  These workers will poke their noses everywhere they can and find out as much as they can through observation.

We would like to know how well others’ perform their jobs, their work habits, and their lifestyles.  So what do we do?  We observe the behavior of others and listen hard to the things they say.  Also, there are some people that attract our attention more than others.  Maybe it’s because we really like (or dislike) their appearance, we hear things from or about them that excite us, or maybe it’s just a sense of personal chemistry.  If there’s someone that you’re extremely curious about, chances are you’ll find out things about them without poking your nose at them.

Although they would like to be on one of the top rungs of the ladder, getting there often requires a lot more skill and expertise than they believe they have.  Since this is true, instead of envying those above them, these coworkers look for ways to cut their superiors down, just to make themselves feel better.  This is why employees group together and go out to lunch or congregate after work, someplace off the employer’s premises.  Many will hit a bar after work just to have a few drinks as they are more inclined to share what is on their minds.

It all boils down to one thing: coworkers wish they could have as much authority and earn as much money as their superiors.  For those coworkers who feel they’re stuck in a hopeless rut, they’ll find any way possible to demean those above them.  Through gossiping, workers seek social approval from their friends.

Covering Up for Our Inadequacies

Everyone has an inadequacy of some kind.  Whether we want to admit it or not, there have been some things we have done or some things that happened to us that we are not too proud of.

Such examples are having a troubled childhood, getting a DWI, being fired, becoming a victim or rape or robbery, finding out our significant other is cheating on us, losing money on a scam, and the list goes on and on.  Maybe it was a big mistake we made resulting in a large loss or great damage, such as making a bad investment.  Negligent acts that were our fault or embarrassing mishaps betray us as well.

Likewise, it may be a personal weakness, a fault or flaw, or physical defect we have that causes us to feel insecurity.  It may be an attention deficit, behavioral disorder, depression, unmanageable anger, recklessness, or habitual negligence.  Possibly, one is unhappy about their appearance making them insecure.  One may feel inadequate become she doesn’t have many friends or has nothing to say during a social gathering.  Maybe, there was a situation where one was treated unfavorably because of a flaw he has.

How do we cope with our imperfections or misfortunes?  We like to find out about others who have experienced the same things or possess the same flaws we have.  Hearing about mistakes others have made makes us feel better.  This is because we realize we’re not the only one who has had this happen to.

A great number of people are humble.  Whatever happened to them, whether it was their fault or not, they are willing to share their stories.  Even if it is a quirk they have or something stupid they did, or an incorrect conclusion about something, they’ll openly talk about it.  For them, it is a great way to get what is bothering them off their chest.  Expressing these things also arouses the interest of those they speak to.

However, there are times when we never find out what others have experienced.  This is where gossiping comes in.  Gossipers have the natural tendency to phish for information by asking people questions or eavesdropping in on them.  In some instances, people discover flaws of others without even trying.  For instance, one may witness a celebrity or an authority figure doing something really stupid.  Once they capture some sensitive facts, they can’t wait to share them with their friends.  Not only is this a feeling of gainfulness, it is a search for approval from them.  Hence, gossiping serves as a way to gain a social boost.

Spreading Rumors

What is a rumor?  As defined in the Webster dictionary, rumor has more than one meaning:

  1. Talk or opinion that is disseminated to others with no discernible source.
  2. A statement or report made without a known authority to verify its truth.

Why do people start rumors?  I have read many stories about classmates or coworkers spreading rumors throughout the school or workplace about someone, especially untrue stories.  All these stories boil down to one thing: jealousy.

The main reason rumors are started is to raise some kind of excitement.  Maybe it’s because they can’t find something else better to do.  Most of them would like to see something in particular happen, usually something bad or negatively arousing (such as a business going under or somebody getting fired, etc) and they’ll try to get others stirred up at the same time.  They will in turn make up some type of story stating that it’s really happening.  At the same time, they love to observe peoples’ reactions to their story.

Let’s pick two fictitious characters: Jill and Sue.   Jill, who is struggling in algebra, realizes that Sue is a math whiz.  Jill then becomes envious of Sue and seeks out a way to cut Sue down.  As a result, Jill might make up a story about how Sue cheats on a math test in order to get a passing grade.  By spreading a rumor about Sue, Jill hopes she will boost herself image and raise herself into the social spotlight.

Rumors might be used to sabotage the goals of others.  Once someone finds out that another is attempting to make a positive change, like seeking a promotion or marrying a certain person, this person may pass a rumor against the goal seeker(s).  More likely, the one who starts the rumor wishes he could do the same thing, but has no prospects.  Out of jealousy, he may attempt to derail the other person’s goals.



Legally Blind – Part 2: Four Eyes

The expression "four eyes" may have come from the thick black-framed glasses.

The expression “four eyes” may have come from the thick black-framed glasses.

This is continuation of my post: Legally Blind – Part 1: How It Affects Me  If you haven’t read it yet, please do, before reading this post.

Hey There “Four Eyes

As long as grade schools existed, there would always be one kid out of so many that had to wear thick-framed glasses all of the time. As you all know, these were the “four eyes.”  Many of them got picked on because they wore stupid looking, heavy framed glasses.  Yes indeed, I was one of them.  Up to 7th grade, I wore plastic rimmed glasses all the time.  I can still picture the black-rimmed glasses that some wore back in the 1960s.

Every elementary and high school has 3 types of kids: 1) the “different” kids – those with some mental or physical defect, 2) the bullies, and 3) the more fortunate, innocent, normal kids.  As you may have guessed, I fell into the first category.  My constantly moving eyes and my near-sightedness not only limited my vision, but caused me to develop weird mannerisms that made me seem inferior to others.  Such mannerisms were in the way I walked, the way I had to hold reading materials close to my face, and the way I had to get extremely close to objects (such as electronics) to read them.  Also, I need to turn small printed materials sideways to decipher the tiny printed alphanumeric characters.

I was teased a lot and thought of as being mentally retarded.  Kids would ask me things like “How many fingers am I holding up?”  I could always tell them outright.  Some outright avoided me because I was different and others were sarcastic and mean.  Just by seeing me walk, kids who didn’t know me were sarcastic and told me to watch where I was going.

While in high school, anonymous people would call up my mother and tell her that I definitely needed a seeing-eye dog.  This astounded her.  She could never understand how people could exaggerate my visual condition.  The SSDBVI constantly called us and sent me mail.  She felt they were “making a mountain out of a molehill”, but on the flip side, between all 8 schools in our district, there were only very few of us “blind” students, so this agency had to do keep busy with us to continue operating.

During my high-school years, I was one of those kids that stood out from the rest in my own ways.  People would razz or question me about my eyesight.  They were not so cruel, but became casual acquaintances.  I wonder if my visual impairment in an odd way attracted their attention towards me.  Some would call me Cylon after the Battlestar Galactica TV series while others called me “stigmite.”  I took no offense to these names.  In fact I got a charge out of them.

Because of my vision, sometimes I fell into the “disabled” group.  Com-on, I’m not disabled, I can walk and get around like everyone else.  The word “disabled” was degrading and by no means wanted to be a part of that group.  I wouldn’t need special services if only I was granted with a little luck and a secure job.

How My Visual Impairment Became My Biggest Asset

Even though I got teased and hassled a lot, couldn’t do certain things others could, and had a hard time finding a decent job, my visual impairment which was once a liability, turned into a great asset.

In the past decade, I had trouble finding and holding jobs.  Still, I have one tool at my aid: a document that states I was declared legally blind in November of 1968.  Whoa, I was only six years old then.  Whenever I apply for various services, I just send them a copy of it and surely be accepted.

Currently, I live on Social Security Disability because of my (legal) blindness.  I would rather be able to work than to live off federal income.  But due to the bad economy and the recessions we’ve been through, it is best that I receive this.

Still there are certain restrictions with my benefits.  Although I am allowed to work to supplement my income, I cannot make more than $1700 a month.  If I did, my benefits may be reduced or terminated.  Also, in today’s job market, jobs are hard to find and employers are more apt to let workers go with little or no warning, even for the pettiest reasons.  Hence, job security is as poor as it’s ever been.  I just don’t dare to live without my SSI benefits.  Now, jobs around my community are few and far in between, or in neighboring towns 30 miles away.

I feel sorry for unemployed individuals and couples without a disability.  Their only options are to collect unemployment (if they’re eligible) or other public assistance (if they can).  Many of them have been forced out of their homes and some are homeless.  Without my benefits, I would be homeless too.

Still, the greatest benefit of being visually impaired is when people comment that I’ve done a lot for someone that can’t see well.  I’ve had a number of people tell me that.  For one thing, I owned and maintained a home in Minneapolis for 18 years, doing a countless number of repairs myself.  I did electrical wiring, plumbing repairs, painting, etc.  I strive to be as independent as possible and rarely ask for the help of others.  Being recognized for my accomplishments makes me feel good.

Today, I’m a 50-year old bachelor who co-owns a home with my brother.  Because of my home repair experience, he relies on me to do the repairs.  I am confident that our house will be well-maintained and suit us well into the next decade.

Legally Blind – Part 1: How It Affects Me

English: Reading glasses. ‪中文(繁體)‬: 老花眼鏡

English: Reading glasses. ‪中文(繁體)‬: 老花眼鏡 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Legally, I am classified as being blind, though I really am not. I can see everything around me clearly, but when it comes to small print or details, I use a heavy magnifying pair of reading glasses. However, there are times when I attempt to read without using my glasses, because I’m too lazy to put them on. Still, I don’t use a cane, read Braille and I sure don’t need a seeing-eye dog.

Because this story is so long, I broke it up into two posts.

My Visual Condition

Yes, I’ve been born with my visual condition and it has adversely affected me throughout my life. Not only was I born with astigmatism, but nystagmus (constant, involuntary back and forth movement of the eyeballs) too.

Contact lenses are totally out of the question. After several eye exams, they are unable to provide me with regular glasses to correct my vision. Therefore, I have reading glasses only and should not wear them unless I’m reading. For regular site, they make everything look blurry.

My legal blindness prohibits me from getting a driver’s license. You need to be able to read any sign going at 55 miles per hours, which I could never do.
Over the last three decades I considered laser eye surgery. The thought of having the cornea reshaped in my eyes so my vision can be corrected has sounded really good to me. I was excited about the possibility to drive and land a better job. About 3 or 4 times I’ve seen different specialists, each about 5 years apart, but they all told me the same thing: Your eyes cannot be corrected due to nystagmus. If we did, you would have tunnel vision, that’s if we can get your eyes to stay still.

How It Affects My Life

Most every type of task is tougher for me than for the average person. Operating electronics or machinery (until I’m familiar with them) is difficult and takes me a long time to master. Quite often, I would need to put household or office items together that came in kits (for example, chairs, desks, and shelves). Not only was it hard to read the directions, but to sort out all of the parts in different categories so I would know which parts connected with what pieces. Hence, assembling things took me longer than it might take others.

Sometimes reading is difficult. Reading the classified ads in the newspaper is hard, especially deciphering addresses or phone numbers. The Yellow Pages were just as bad. Thanks to the internet, I rarely have to read these things anymore, and if I do, I use heavy magnifying glasses.

Counting money can be difficult for me. I always had difficulties trying to tell nickels and quarters apart. Later I found out that other people had that problem too. Now I can do that without any problem. Sometimes, I have to hold ten, twenty, fifty, or one-hundred dollar bills up close to make sure I’m giving cashiers the correct amount of money.

I grew up in a foster family who liked to fish. Every weekend we would go up to the cabin and spend time out on the lake or down at the canal fishing off shore. I used to hate fishing with a passion. Not only did I rarely catch anything, but I would have a difficult time putting the bait on the hook. Putting on sinkers and bobbers was very hard for me. Stringing a leader onto the end of the line was almost impossible. Often, my fishing line would become tangled and straightening out the mess was extremely impossible. I would get so frustrated that I would scream and curse to the top of my lungs.

To this day, I still hate fishing, unless there are others along willing to help me and we are at a lake that actually has fish in it.

Indeed, I did look quite awkward when handling my fishing pole. I would hold the objects an inch away from my eyes and squint as I tried to put them together. Usually, I would succeed, but only after several minutes or struggling. No doubt, I must have looked pretty foolish.

While in senior high, I received materials from the State Services for the Disabled and Blind and Visually Impaired (SSDBVI) in Minnesota. I didn’t have to apply for them, I just received them automatically. This included a cassette player with audio books, called talking books. They would send me a large print catalog and I would check some of them out. It was just like a standard library including books containing adult language. They also tried to push Braille materials my way, but I didn’t need Braille, nor had sensitive fingers to read it anyway.

All of my adult life I have been unable to drive. I’ve had to depend on others to drive me places, unless there was public transportation handy. Still, I can ride a bike without any problem, especially when I know the area well. Thus, I aim to be as independent as possible and hate having to bother people for rides.

Riding in a car with someone can be extremely difficult. This is true when we both are going somewhere we never been before. For me, seeing most street signs is impossible. Even though I bring a pair of binoculars along, they’re not powerful enough for me to see the street signs. As we approach them, I would struggle to focus in on them and by the time I was close enough, we had already whipped past them.

I would feel so helpless when trying to help the driver find his/her way to our destination. Fortunately, those I ride with are understanding. Still, I can read road maps with the aid of a heavy magnifying glass plus the help of my reading glasses. It just takes me half a minute to put on my glasses, grab the map, and fetch the magnifying glass.

For more, see next post.

Positive Thinking – Part 1: Understanding Negative Thinking


Pessimism (Photo credit: Ankher)

If you read books on self-help or self-improvement or listened to audio tapes, you know they all basically say one thing: positive thinking can change your life.  Such guides stress the importance of being an optimist instead of a pessimist.

It’s Hard to Be an Optimist

Are you kidding?   How can you be an optimist when things seem to be going wrong all the time?  In the past, you tried to plan events (like parties, weddings, or vacations) or hoped to complete tasks (like home repairs, presentations, or college courses) successfully, but it seems that almost always, you encountered a road block somewhere along the way.

Wouldn’t you know it!   Something would have to happen to put a damper on your plans or spirit.  Things happened that prevented you from succeeding in many things you tried to do.  People let you down, the weather turned bad, somehow you weren’t able to get what you needed or some disaster or accident happened that ruined your plans.

Such examples may be planning to take a drive only to discover your car has a flat tire or arranging an outdoor party and when the day comes, it rains.  Speaking of rain, it seems like God is out to rain on your parade.  When things go wrong, you might make inferences as “it’s just my luck” or “I wasn’t meant to do that.”

Maybe it’s just Murphy’s Law.

What Causes Negative Thinking?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to answer that question.  There are a countless number of things that cause you to be a pessimist.  One need not go too far to find them.  Worst of all, mishaps can crush your self-esteem.  You feel like a failure or your life overall is ill-fated.  Some of them may have more dangerous effects than you realize.

You’re not the only one who feels this way.  There are many factors in our lives that promote negative thinking.  Such things may be:

  1. Bad news from others or from the local news.
  2. The bad economy and inflation.
  3. Receiving too much information or advice that is hard to follow.
  4. Increasing demands or stress.
  5. New rules or laws making it harder to obtain the things you need or enjoy.
  6. Difficult people you must deal with daily.
  7. Personal failures.
  8.  Seemingly unfair circumstances that affect you.
  9.  Being treated unkind or unfairly.
  10. Embarrassing, stupid, or regretful things you’ve done.
  11. Disappointment from others.
  12. Bad things happening in your community.
  13. Being affected by the declining morals of our modern society.
  14. Annoying or unhealthy habits of others.
  15. Financial problems.
  16. Doing tasks you hate.
  17. Troubles with loved ones.
  18. Troublesome relationships.
  19. Potential problems.
  20. Deaths to loved ones or pets.
  21. Accidents, mishaps, or disasters.
  22. Dissatisfaction with yourself and your life.
  23. Unfavorable changes in your life.
  24. Being degraded or criticized by others.
  25. Getting robbed, cheated, or assaulted.
  26. Being turned down for loans, grants, or other financing.

There, I’ve named 26 things that cause negative thinking to occur and hopefully I covered all of the bases without overlapping or repeating things.  Anything you can think of should fall under one of these categories.  Hopefully, I didn’t leave anything out.

Add all these things up and you may feel that living a happy life is hopeless.  You strongly believe there is no use in trying to get what you want because you’ll likely face disappointments and unconquerable road blocks.  No matter what you try to do, you firmly believe you’ll live a grim or mediocre life.  You’re thoroughly convinced that whatever you do, nothing will make a difference.  Are you hopelessly doomed?  No.

Launching a Business or Career

Going into business often seems enticing.  The thought of making lots of money while doing what you do best makes you motivated to try. But once you get started, there will be unexpected barriers that make it seem impossible.  Unless you have previous business experience and extensive resources at your disposal, moving onward can seem intimidating.  All at once, you need lots of capital, a team of knowledgeable people, and in depth skill or experience in your trade.  Likewise, you’ll need to know how much competition you’re up against and create a strategy to get around it.

If this is your first time running a business, congratulations for having the courage to launch it.  Most likely, you’re proud that you’ve taken your first step towards financial independence and now you can be your own boss.

Commercially produced self-help guides insinuate that the total difference between succeeding versus failing depends on your mode of thinking: positive or negative.  Of course you must think positive when starting such a venture.  This will motivate you to find ways around potential problems and create better products (or services).  Negative thinking will surely sabotage your business.  As you have little or no hope of succeeding, you’ll lose motivation and eventually give up.

As time goes on, what seemed to be easy at first turned into a barrage of overwhelming demands and high costs.  On top of that, you must become extremely proficient at your trade and learn how to handle problems in the most effective manner.

It seems that you’re now on an ocean in a small boat of your own. Though you’re the captain of your boat, you wonder if you can handle the turbulence of the wind and waves without capsizing your boat.  Quite often you’ll wish you were on a ship controlled by an experienced captain instead.  Fear of sinking can seriously impair your likelihood to survive.

Hence, those who start their own enterprise are positive thinkers-or else they wouldn’t attempt it.  Even though you have high hopes, there are many other variables to consider.  If you’re not skilled or prepared to deal with all the demands, you’re not too likely to succeed.

Attending college is another endeavor that requires positive thinking.  First, you must believe you have the potential to pass all the courses and earn your degree.  Just wanting a high-paying job in a few short years is not enough.  You must have a deep interest in what trade you want to pursue.  Like a business, positive thinking will ensure success in earning your degree, but will not guarantee it.  Failing to earn a degree often makes people feel worthless and unintelligent.  Hence, dropouts feel they’ll never earn a good income or live the lifestyle they desire.

Being unsuccessful in such ventures can really hurt one’s self-esteem and bring on negative thinking.  Some will make the conclusion that they’re total failures and don’t deserve success.  Everything they try from now on, they’ll only fail at.  How they suppose to adopt habits of positive thinking?

Panhandlers: To Give or Not to Give

English: Panhandler in Oceanside, California.

English: Panhandler in Oceanside, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They’re in most every big city these days: panhandlers. It seems like you can’t go downtown anymore without being greeted by at least one of them.  Needless to say, they degrade our cities and make life a little less pleasant for anyone who chooses to shop downtown.

You can even find them in the suburbs at the top of highway ramps or in parking lot exits.  Some will hold cardboard signs in big black letters.  Those downtown often sit on sidewalks or bridges, many with their heads tucked down between their knees, with signs and/or umbrellas.

Beggars hurt businesses in areas of heavy panhandling, especially shopping malls.  Overall, they can hurt downtown commerce as a whole because innocent shoppers fear they can’t walk the sidewalks or return to their cars without running into a panhandler.

There are different races of these people and of course all of them are usually dressed in dirty, ragged clothes.  These people are often referred to as bums, squatters, the homeless, etc.  You’ll usually hear them use the word “brother.”  Apparently, they’re insinuating that giving money to them is just like giving money to your brother.  Anyone I’ll never see again could never be my brother.

Another common phrase is “God bless you!”  Will God bless me?  I’ve heard it said in church many times: Whatever you give to another, God will give you that same thing 100 times back.  Later I heard that what you give must be a sacrifice to yourself.  Sure, anyone in this world will give you something if it is of no potential value to them.

Should You Give to A Panhandler?

What should you do if someone approaches you and asks for a small amount of money?  Should you give it to them or not?  Do they really need money or are they just putting on an act?  That all depends on how you view this particular person and the way they present themselves.  Once they receive money, many beggars slip into alleyways and buy drugs.  Even the dealers know that certain loyal customers are not homeless.

There are genuine panhandlers and there are scammers.   The genuine ones of course are homeless and absolutely need money to eat.  The scammers more likely aren’t homeless, but are looking for cash to buy booze or drugs or simply an extra income.  Usually, they will dress in ragged, dirty clothing to convince you that they are genuine.  Others do it just to see how much they can make as a second income.  On a bad day, successful ones make at least $20 while on good days, around $300.

I don’t like giving money to them unless they absolutely need it.  I’ve helped a number of them but then again, walked away from many others.  Once I handed them money, my feelings of being a good Samaritan turned into feelings of self-consciousness.  It was then I felt they played me for a chump.  Then I realize that they only do it because they know people will give them money.  Most of all, I hate the feeling of apathy most of them radiate.

Panhandlers often try to play on one’s conscience.  Some act really friendly as a potentially good acquaintance and others may try to make you feel sorry for them by making up some long story about how rough things are.  Once you’re approached by one, you are in a situation where you must think on your toes.  If you’re absolutely ruthless and maybe mean, you’ll have the gull to walk away.  However, if you’re kind and empathetic towards homeless people, you’re likely to give.  For those on the fence, walking away from one may make them feel guilty or selfish.

How do you know if one is genuine or not?  Usually, the real beggars look rather old and haggardly.  These people usually look real soiled and have wrinkled faces and long beards.  It’s best to stay away from clean-cut beggars, unless, perhaps they’re stranded somewhere and can’t get home without some money.  If you’re still unsure, it is best to just walk away or ignore them.

If you find that difficult, you can start by having a short conversation with them. You might ask questions like:

What do you need the money for?

Are you homeless?

How long have you been homeless?

Have you tried going to a homeless shelter?

Have you tried looking for work?

You need not get nosy, but if you can make them talk for a few minutes, you can find out more things about them.  However, they are likely to lie to make you feel sorry for them and become inclined to give.  Yet, others may not be good liars.  If one you chat with seems to run out of things to say or just walk away, more likely they’re a scammer.

Never make racial remarks to them or stereotype their mode of living.  Not all beggars are black.

I’ve met a few downright, not-so-clever scammers.  Some would try lines like “My car is on fire” but don’t act like it really is.  In fact I heard a smart-ass say this out loud on a bus and nobody responded.  Just by the tone of his voice I could tell that he wanted to see who would respond out of stupidity.    Maybe I should have put him on the spot by saying, “Oh yeah? Show me your burning car!”  Like hell their car is burning, it really doesn’t exist.

Where to Give

I’ll say it again, panhandlers beg for money mostly because they know there’s a very good chance that someone will give them some.  In the long run, giving money to them will never really help them.  You’re just helping them in supporting their squalor lifestyle and bad habits.  It’s just like helping someone live a lie.

If you truly have a heart and a chunk of money to spaer, give to a local Union Gospel Mission or homeless shelter.  Most cities have food shelves and charities that accept used clothing and other household goods, like the Salvation Army.  Especially around Christmas time, many charities as The Angel Tree advertise their services as malls have bell ringers who collect money in red pans.  Find out where these agencies are in your city and suggest them to each beggar.

By giving to these entities, you know that what you give will go for a good cause-not towards a drug or alcohol addiction.  Most of all, you can feel good about contributing.  You can deduct charitable contributions on your income tax return at the end of the year.

One final note, make sure that the organization you give to is legitimate.  Once you learn about their existence, check them out online to make sure they’re real.  If you’re confronted by a so-called rep, ask for a pamphlet or a business card.  If they have no documentation, don’t give.  Never give them cash outright, but write a check payable to that organization.

Please feel free to comment.  If there’s something I left out or you disagree with me, I would appreciate your input.

Ten Ways to Become a Better Conversationalist

People Who Eat Too Fast

The Damaging Remark

Small Daily Improvements Add Up

Thou Shalt Not Compare

Small Daily Improvements Add Up

"Improve Your Skill-or Learn a New One - ...

“Improve Your Skill-or Learn a New One – In a Vital Army Job-Join the WAC’s Now” – NARA – 514613 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More than likely you know people who are unhappy with their lives.  It may be they don’t make enough money, they lack motivation, they can’t seem to lose weight, their house is messy, etc.  Such people tend to make excuses rather than changes.  They’ll use phrases as: “if only I….”,  “I can’t seem to….”, “I never…”, “It always seems like….”, “I don’t have the skill…”, and on and on.

Conquering a Problem

What would you like to improve in your life?  How do you go about changing your circumstances?  Start by assessing your problems and brainstorm small ways to fix them.  Think of your troubles as challenges instead of hindrances.  Break each problem down into bite-sized pieces and eliminate one piece at a time.  If only you take the time to think things out, you may surprise yourself with what you come up with.

Remember the movie “What About Bob?”  This was a 1991 comedy starring Bill Murray as Bob Wiley (a psychiatric patient) and Richard Dreyfuss as Dr. Leo Marvin (a New York psychiatrist).  Bob is a kind man who suffers from several phobias.  Leo decides to take a week’s vacation which Bob finds hard to cope with.  Bob follows Leo to his cabin where he forces them to let him stay.  Leo had published a book called “Baby Steps” that explains how to conquer an intimidating problem by approaching it gradually.

I’ll always remember what Dr. Leo said about taking baby steps.  If you have a big problem or need to learn a new skill, but don’t know how to go about it, approach it with baby steps. This advice comes in handy when I need to learn a new computer task.  Keeping up with new technology is not easy unless you face it one step at a time.

Make a Small Improvement Daily

Even if you feel you can’t solve your problems easily, you still can make your life better with each day.  You don’t need a whole lot of luck or a bundle of money, just a little time.  All you need to do is figure out some small way to make your life better.

Following are some troubles people may have and ways they can improve them:

  • Difficulty operating a device –  If you have trouble figuring out your new cell phone, take a few minutes a day to review its manual.  Have friends or family teach you its functions.  Find information about it online.  Aim to learn a new function every few days.
  • Being lonely – If you feel you don’t have enough friends or someone to keep you company, you can become acquainted with one person per day or week.  Look up activities in your community and try a few.  If you like to have a few drinks, go to a saloon and chat with others there.  Find and join a special interest group.
  • Having a messy house -If your house is cluttered with all kinds of stuff and you’re disorganized or embarrassed to have people over, you need not live with it.  Rather than spending one whole day cleaning the entire house, you can spend up to an hour a day cleaning one room at a time.  Monday you can scrub the bathroom, Tuesday, organize an overfilled closet, Wednesday, catch up on the laundry, etc.
  • Learning a new skill -So you have a weakness or a need to learn a new skill, but you don’t know where to begin.  Ask yourself some questions:  Where can I learn to do this?  Who has the talent or knowledge that I can contact?  Where can I find out more about it?  Most of all, don’t forget about the internet.  It is a great source of information for practically anything under the sun.
  • Improving a relationship – It may be a spouse, family member, or a friend who has become angry with you.  Analyze where you went wrong and try to make good on your mistakes.  Do a small good deed for him or her.  Offer to help this person with a problem they have.  Send him/her an article this person would be interested in reading.  Going out of your way and doing one or several favors may help revive your relationship.

Chipping Away at the Stone

So you have a fear, a weakness, or trouble of some kind.  This only proves that you’re human.  Still, some feel that if they can’t resolve the issue immediately, they can’t resolve it at all.   Not true!  Even if it takes you weeks, months, or years, you can remove this problem by slowly trying to resolve it.  Taking a long time is much better than not trying at all.

Is Free Software Really Free?

Screenshot of GLUI example program.

Screenshot of GLUI example program. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are a lot of sugar-coated offers for free software online these days.  Some are like roaches that multiply with each passing day.  These offers sound too good to pass up, but in reality, sometimes you’re just better off purchasing these programs directly from the publishers.  Why?  This is because free software not only promotes its programs, but other online services as well.

I Want It Because It’s FREE

What attracts consumers?  The word FREE!  Most computer users would like to learn to do more things on their machines as make videos, record music, read or write ebooks, etc, but don’t want to pay for software unless they absolutely have to.  However, times are tough and many consumers lack good paying jobs-that is if they’re lucky enough to still be working.  Before buying software, they must be sure they’ll use it enough to make it worth the price.  They’ll only purchase a program as a last resort.

All the more, free software does sound enticing.  More than ever before, people would like to update their computer skills in hopes that by doing so will land them a better-paying job.  If they can learn skills that are in high demand for free-all the better.

I’ve run across numerous companies that offer free software.  Yes indeed, I was tempted to try some of them.  I would check out the Tucows (www.tucows.com) site where a variety of programs are available for both PC and Mac users.  Some are freeware, others are shareware  (donations appreciated), and the remainder are for pay.  Another great thing, most of these programs run on various versions of Microsoft Windows and have ratings and reviews submitted by past users.  Tucows is a reputable site for safe software applications, for all I know.

Free software downloads are like everywhere online, but some are downright deceiving.  Yes, they’ll say they’re free when viewing their listings, but be prepared to jump through some hoops if you wish to try them out.  I won’t do any name-dropping or finger-pointing here, but I’ve had extensive experiences with many of them.  As I would download a program, I found I wasn’t only downloading that software, but other services as well.  And if there weren’t services connected to them, the application was free for a trial time period, usually 7 days.  Hey, they never said that up front!

The “Free Lunch” Buffet

What kind of services come with free software?  There are numerous types as search engines you never heard of and money-saving programs.  Yes, some offer savings on: groceries, pet products, ebooks, auto insurance, health insurance, college education, books, legal services, medications, and so on and so forth.  Do you really need any of these?  Absolutely not!  They’re like the over-priced corn dogs and cheese curds you buy at the state fair, only they don’t satisfy your hunger.

The next day, you’re phone is ringing off the hook because you checked certain boxes or agreed to certain terms you more than likely scanned over when searching for the “Continue” button.  Shame on you!  Maybe if you’re lucky, you save on insurance premiums or find an inexpensive airline flight to the other side of the globe, but there’s a slim chance in that.  Unless you are ruthless enough to slam your foot down, you may find yourself pursuing a college degree in a few months.  Nothing wrong with continuing your education, but… is this a good college?

Why don’t they just make it a “free lunch” buffet?  What if you saw a sign outside a restaurant offering free lunch between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm that says nothing more?  Would you try this place out?  Say you are extremely savvy and hungry.  You won’t want to pass this opportunity by.

The catch is, you must walk down a long hallway that leads to the diner.  The hall is filled with booths (not dining booths, mind you) on either side where representatives are selling products or services to promote their businesses.  As you make your way down the hall, you’re being greeted by several reps who are pushing fliers and brochures in your face and boasting about whatever they’re trying to sell you.

You’re like, “What the hell did I do?  I wanted to go to the buffet, not some business trade show!”  The next thing you know, you have a plastic bag filled with sample products and advertisements because you were too polite to tell the reps “no”.

Once you finally entered the buffet, you tell a waitress that you would like to try the free buffet.  It turns out that you only receive samples of each entrée for free or there is a limited section of cheap food that you can choose from.  If you want the regular “all-you-can-eat” special, you have to purchase the full meal deal.

The bottom line here is: There is no free lunch.  Free software often works this way.

Types of Software Downloaders

From my experiences, I can say there are three type of software downloaders who are:

  1. The “I need it now” people – These surfers are just so antsy that they want to find something right now and get started right away.  They’re not too cautious, as long as the application downloads and is available to use instantly, they’re satisfied.  They’re eager to check boxes and click through dialog boxes without reading the messages. Many don’t realize they may be downloading a virus along with the software, but they’re not too worried about that.  It never happened to them before so why should they worry?
  2. The “I want to improve my life” people – These people just want to enhance their skills and are open-minded, adventure seekers.  They assume that all companies are fair and out for the consumer’s best interest.  You can say they’re much like the coupon clippers that want to save money, but end up spending more on products they’ve never used before, just because they seem like good deals, or perhaps “steals.”  They accept new services in belief that they could benefit or else feel guilty for turning them down because these services seem so nice or practical.  They’re like, “Maybe this can help me, you never know!” or “What do I have to lose?”  These are the innocent, naïve fools that have money to burn or are strongly convinced that catching a virus can’t happen to them, because it hasn’t happened yet.  Go figure!
  3. The “Computer Scrooges” – They’re like: Hey, if there’s a free program out there, why should I hafta buy one?”  From their point of view, software is way too expensive and they’re scared to spend a dime if they don’t have to.  It’s like, let’s see how good the free software is, it may be great and save me from buying a program with bells and whistles I don’t need.  While a significant amount of them are penny-pinchers, others are in hard financial situations where they feel it’s best to avoid gambles any way they can.

I’ll admit I’ve played all of these roles in the past.  Sometimes I would find a great program, but other times I fell into traps that were hard to get out of.

I’m Not Bashing Free Software…

Before considering a free download ask yourself one question:  If this software is free, then why are companies charging users for their programs?  Most likely, free software doesn’t cover all the bases of a purchased program.  Investigate paid programs to see what features they offer.

Although, I know what I might be getting into, I still search for free programs. I found some good file conversion and sound recording programs that were free.  If you want to go that route, fine, but you should be prepared for what you might get yourself into.

Here are some basic tips:

  1. Install an anti-virus program that determines whether or not a program is safe to download.
  2. Create a backup and restore point on your machine before searching the internet.  (Check your operating system’s help section on how to do this).  This way, if the software raises havoc with your machine, you can restore your computer to the settings it had before the download.
  3. Read reviews on the program you would like to install.  Say if the program is called “Kwik-Write”, enter “Kwik-Write reviews” into your favorite search engine.  If you know others that use similar programs, ask for their input.  Anyway, I just made up the name Kwik-Write.
  4. Allow yourself plenty of time to check out a program before using it.  Never be in a hurry to download and use it!
  5. Be prepared to read and read, read, read!  If you hate bothering with the small details and terms and agreements, you’re putting yourself at risk.
  6. Find out if there is a trial period, how long it is, and whom to contact for support.  Beware!  Trial programs have some disabled functions while others have limited functions.  For example, you can try out a new word processor, but might not be able to save or print with it until you purchase the program in full.
  7. Many free software offers accompany online services that install additional toolbars on your browser.  Though these toolbars promise enhanced searching capabilities, they often slow down your machine and eat up its resources.  Your browser has a means of removing them.  Find out how to do this before you download.  Hiding these toolbars does no good.
  8. Some non-affiliated services will lead you into a trap to accept them.  The only way you can escape their dialog boxes, is to click the “Yes” button (or the equivalent).  If you find yourself in a trap, never accept the service.   Shut down and reboot your machine immediately.  You’ll be doing your system less harm in the long run.
  9. Download from reputable sources as much as possible.  Third-party, off-brand names might carry viruses or other rogue programs.
  10. Scan your newly downloaded programs to make sure they’re safe before opening them.

Just play it smart when downloading free software.  Never rush the process.  There is nothing in this world that must be done online today.  If you want to try out software, it is best to consult the publisher’s site and see if they offer free versions.  Avoid third party sites, they’re more likely trying to make money selling other peoples’ works.  This will save you from a severely handicapped computer, tons of sales calls, and strange charges appearing on your bank statements.

Speaking of bank statements, check yours regularly, especially after the download.

If there’s something I left out or could have said better, please feel free to comment.  Thank you.